Jannes and Jambres

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Illustration of the rods of Aaron and the magicians becoming snakes.

Jannes and Jambres, or sometimes Johanai and Mamre, or Iannes and Mambres, or Janis and Jamberes, are names traditionally given to the magicians who contended with Moses and Aaron and were discomfited by the Hebrew leaders in the Book of Exodus in the Hebrew Bible.

Hebrew Bible[edit]

Jannes and Jambres are not mentioned by name in the Tanakh or the Old Testament, however, according to Exodus 7:10-12 (KJV)

And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.

New Testament[edit]

These names appear in 2 Timothy 3:8 (Ἰάννης καὶ Ἰαμβρῆς) in the New Testament. Origen says that there was an apocryphal book called The Book of Jannes and Jambres, containing details of their exploits, and that The Apostle Paul's epistle was quoting from it. This book has not been rediscovered.

Pliny[edit]

They also appear in Pliny the Elder's Natural History, together with Moses, as famous magicians of antiquity; Pliny's citation is also referred to in Apuleius. Numerius, a Pythagorean philosopher, calls them sacred Egyptian scribes.

Targums[edit]

Jannes and Jambres (יַנִּיס וְיַמְבְּרִיס) are mentioned in the Old Testament Targum Jonathan Exodus 7:11-8:19.[1] Jewish traditions in the Targums preserve other half-legendary lore about the pair. They are called the sons of Balaam, the unwitting prophet of Peor. It was also claimed that they converted to Judaism, and that they left Egypt at the Exodus to accompany Moses and the Israelites; however, they perished on the way, either at the Red Sea, or the destruction of the Golden Calf, or at the slaughter of Korah and his followers.[citation needed]

Apocryphon of Jannes and Jambres the magicians[edit]

The Apocryphon of Jannes and Jambres the magicians is a manuscript among the Chester Beatty Papyri No XVI, which has been edited and translated by Albert Pietersma.[2]

Kabbalah[edit]

Apart from their opposition to Moses there are other legends about these two Egyptian sorcerers; it was said that during the end of their days they had necessary occult knowledge to embark on a journey to the Judeo-Christian heavens. They were not welcomed and the angels of the first few heavens fought them vigorously but they could not evict them due to the potent talismans that were worn by the wizards. As they entered the fourth heaven they were met by Michael and Gabriel; legends say that the battle was very evenly balanced, but in the end it was the angels who had to fall back. Upon entering the fifth heaven they were met by none other than Metatron, who did not come at them with defiance or anger, but appeared accommodating, considering the circumstances; after conversing for a short time the angel was successful in convincing Jannes and Jambres to remove their talismans, leaving them thus vulnerable. Metatron was quick to act and threw them out of heaven with a wave of his hand. It is said that they lost all memory of the event after that.[citation needed]

"Book of Jasher"[edit]

Among the various pseudepigraphic texts called "Book of Jasher" the 16th Century Hebrew Sefer haYashar (midrash) (first edition 1552, later popular among early Mormons) mentions the magicians.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

In the film The Prince of Egypt, Steve Martin and Martin Short provides the voice for Hotep and Huy, the characters who were based on Jannes and Jambres.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Clontz, T.E. and J., "The Comprehensive New Testament with complete textual variant mapping and references for the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, Nag Hammadi Library, Pseudepigrapha, Apocrypha, Plato, Egyptian Book of the Dead, Talmud, Old Testament, Patristic Writings, Dhammapada, Tacitus, Epic of Gilgamesh", Cornerstone Publications, 2008, p. 680, ISBN 978-0-9778737-1-5
  2. ^ Pietersma A. The Apocryphon of Jannes and Jambres
  3. ^ ed. Parry Book of Jasher 79:27"And when they had gone Pharaoh sent for Balaam the magician and to Jannes and Jambres his sons, and to all the magicians and conjurors and counsellors which belonged to the king, and they all came and sat before the king."

References[edit]